Wall St opens flat after GDP data

Wall St opens flat after GDP data

NEW YORK - US stocks held near the unchanged mark shortly after the open on Friday, following data on economic growth and ahead of a report on consumer sentiment.

Gross domestic product expanded 2.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, revised down from 2.6 per cent estimated last month, the Commerce Department said on Friday. The economy grew at a 5 per cent rate in the third quarter.

"It was basically as expected, but it certainly shows weak growth in the quarter." said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

Each of the three major indexes was on track for a fourth straight week of gains, although the weekly climb has been slight, with the Dow and S&P 500 near record highs and the Nasdaq within striking distance of the 5,000 level.

"The concern is that we could go back down and retest these short term lows we've seen that the market has been experiencing since early December, there is a bit of caution from investors currently about that," Ghriskey said.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 14.67 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 18,199.75, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.22 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 2,110.52 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 1.06 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 4,986.83.

Later in the session at 10:00 a.m., the University of Michigan's final February reading on consumer sentiment is expected, along with pending home sales for January. Consumer sentiment is forecast to come in at 94, up from a preliminary 93.6. Pending home sales are expected to show a 2 per cent rise, after a 3.7 per cent decline in December.

After a sluggish start to the year, stocks have rebounded sharply in February. Both the Dow and S&P 500 are on track for their best monthly performance since October 2011, while the Nasdaq is on pace for its best month since January 2012.

Bank of America shares were down 2.4 per cent to $15.66 after the company said two members of its board of directors and its chief accounting officer will be leaving the company in coming weeks. UBS also cut its rating on the stock to "neutral" from a "buy" rating.

J.C. Penney dropped 9.6 per cent to $8.24 after the retailer posted a surprise quarterly loss and forecast small margin improvements this year.

With earnings season mostly wrapped up, Thomson Reuters data through Thursday morning shows that of the 475 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 69.5 per cent have beaten expectations, against 69 per cent in the last four quarters. Earnings growth for the quarter is expected to be 6.8 per cent.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,414 to 1,159, for a 1.22-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,104 issues fell and 953 advanced for a 1.16-to-1 ratio.

The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 10 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 31 new highs and 4 new lows.

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